tv Tavis Smiley PBS May 24, 2012 12:00am-12:30am EDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight, a conversation with rock-and-roll hall of famer gregg allman, who founded the allman brothers with his brother bank in the 1960's. his line has been a high-profile some of ups and downs, including the death of his brother. the candid memoir about his life is called "my cross to bear," and our conversation with greg allman is coming up right now. >> every community h aas martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. 's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.
thank you. tavis: gregg allman is a grammy- winning rock-and-roll hall of fame member with the allman brothers, starting to play mostly r&b, and he had iconic songs, like, "ramblin' man" and "melissa." great to have you on the program. >> thank you very much, tavis. a pleasure to be here. my cross to bear. why is that?
>> well, i wrote a song called "my cross to bear," and it just seemed -- it is hard to name and hounddog. you know, i tried and tried. "beyond the thrill" was going to be the name of it, and that did not seem to perk up too many years. really nice people, and they started throwing out a bunch of names, and that one came around, and it kind of grows on you. a name has two -- tavis: stick with you for a while. >> yes. tavis: i ask this because it was a tough book to read.
a tough book and that there were so many ups and downs in your life and your career, about which you are very candid and very honest about, but i asked why "my cross to bear," because it seems the crosses you have had to bear, sometimes of your own doing, so many crosses to bear. some serious ups and downs in your life. >> yes, but i am still smiling. yes. i mean, when i look back on my life, i remember back what happened in 1974. it seems like only the really good stuff comes to mind. i do not think of all the tragedies and all of the funerals. that just does not come to mind
at all. i guess i am blessed that way. tavis: how do you not think about the death of your brother? i get what you mean by that, but how do you repress those? particularly? >> after he died, i thought i would never get over it. and then i started thinking more about him than me, a very selfish thing. what they say in the bible that you are supposed to rejoice when people die and mourn when they are born, because that is some of the most painful acts that you go through in life, being born, and dying, i do not know.
i do not know. you have got to have a name. tavis: yes. you talk about it in your book. you talk about it being a painful story, for me at least, with the last conversation with your brother before he passed away, again one of these crosses to bear. how painful to relive that story? >> not as much as it used to be. tavis: right. it was worse than a broken heart. he was not only my brother. he was my mentor, like a father figure. i came to the conclusion that i probably leaned on him a little too much, and i somehow got it
turned around. like now, sometimes on stage, i can feel his presence so vividly that i am just waiting to hear him start his solo. tavis: how did losing in so early in the band's live, how did that challenge to prove how did it help shape and develop new in terms of coming into your own could >> let me tell you. you never know how much you are leaning on somebody until they die, and then, where is my crutch? i just had to bite the bullet and pull up my bootstraps and start stepping, and the other
guys, they are all wondering, what are we going to do now, and everybody knew what their solution was, but they did know if they did not plan -- tavis: you talk about some tense times after duane dies, inside the band, i'm not surprised, about who the leader of the band was going to be, some personality conflicts. >> yes. yes, and everybody is still have crazed. i said, first, let's all go our separate ways. i went to jamaica, and, oh, god,
it was rough, because i was going through a divorce at the same time. tavis: mm-hmm. how did you navigate having to revisit that? and another band member who dies in another accident. >> that was when we were just starting to get over, getting mobile again, and we were talking about music, and i had some new stuff that i had written, and it was the first time that i looked at it, and then that happens.
i was -- where was i? i was somewhere in the caribbean, and they called me and said, "do not come home." so i did not. i stayed down there. it was pretty rough. tavis: how much more important -- it has always been important, that music has always been the epicenter, that music has always been central in your life. how much more did the music become, have to become to help you navigate through these difficult times? >> well, let's see, up until the time of the death, we had two different records.
both of them, they released them, and they just came on the charts with an anchor. they just did not do anything. i have always been like the doubting thomas of the band. so i looked at my brother and said, "c, i told you we were not going to to make enough to pay rent." and then we went on praying. in 1970, i think we played 306 nights. people ask you all the time, "how did you make it? how do you know when you made it?" i do not know when "made it his beat is -- when "made it" is.
we played everywhere we could. we were in new orleans, and the park. extension cords. a couple of consoles let us plug-in, and we had the band, and we did that in just but every time we went to. tavis: you love playing. >> still do. yes, sir, yes, sir. tavis: when you said a moment ago, "i do not know what 'made you certainly knew it when you made it into the rock-and-roll hall of fame. you knew you had made it then.
>> i saw a playback of it the next day, and i quit everything that day. tavis: drugs, you mean. >> drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, snorting, anything. tavis: so all that you have been through in your life and career, all of the challenges, all of the travails, clearly, you had seen yourself in playback countless times, so why did that particular play back into the induction, the rock-and-roll hall of fame, why was that the impetus for you to get sober and clean? >> well, that was like going to see the grand wizard of oz, knighting you, or something. in my world, the hall of fame,
and you get in so early, seemingly, and they had just build it, is the fate would have it that we would get in. the stipulation is you have to have a record net for 25 years, and i think you have to have that it is a hit, too. tavis: that always helps. >> so i just thought, man, if you cannot snap out of it for this, we need to go home and talk, and this time, i went to a rehab at a house. i hired a male nurse to come in there and give me whatever i needed intravenously. i think it was two weeks.
i vaguely remember. all i remember is i did not feel worth a damn. tavis: mm-hmm. >> and right at first, it was real rugged. i wanted a cigarette so bad. all of that, and it was a cigarette. those things were just -- i am so glad that i am not chained to those things anymore. tavis: you are not the first rock-and-roll artists to fall prey to this. but how did that happen for you? how do you recall that you ended up for so many years being addicted? >> well, i inherited this -- i cannot pronounce the name.
it is like when you are in the womb, and there is the last coat of the mammal. my mother. anyway, uncle had dentures at the time he was 16. at any rate, i think i was in my late thirties, and i had abscesses and crowns. i have got a million-dollar smile, for sure, and finally, this one dentists that i happened upon, he took me back in the dark room where they look at all of the x-rays, and he said, "i want you to look closely at this tooth. it is yours.
you see the top. it has been crowned. look at the bottom real closely. " and it looked like a little and jigsaw puzzle, and he said, "the top of the tooth went bad. what makes you think the bottom is not going to do the same thing, too? what you have here is a mouth disease, a lack of a hard enough in tamil." and the teeth were really soft. tavis: so you were self medicating all of this time. >> absolutely. before that, along the way, someone is trying to pass you a backstage powdered pass.
this particular year that we worked so many nights, "try a little bit of this." in the 1970's, man, people were taking anything, everything, and it was like, i do not want to say kosher, but -- tavis: it was everywhere, and everybody was doing it. >> absolutely. everybody. so i took a little snort of this stuff, and it made everything all right. temporarily. tavis: mm-hmm. >> and he did not call it by any name at all. i just eased on out, about 10 hours of sleep. that was about all the time we had until we loaded up again,
and, whew, and before too long, i ran into him again. and he said, "hey, follow me." and one morning, i woke up, and something was not right. i mean, i felt like i had been out in the woods, and a bunch of boggs had bitten me or something. it was terrible. it was terrible. and then the realization hit me. i went, "ah, you stupid --" and by that time, it is too late, and here comes the teeth, and round and round we go. tavis: i have the honor to have on this program and number of
times james taylor, and he has talked about times in his life when he was drug-addicted and what he had to go through to get off of it, and he has joked about not remembering so much of the good stuff early on in his career because he was so high for a good part of that. do you recall, or do you regret not being able to remember and be present in those moments when the music was so rich and being enjoyed by so many people? >> i tell you, i have a hell of a memory. not in immediate memory, but a long time, and i can remember stuff that my good close friends would say, "man, you remember that?" and i would say, "yes, you don't remember this and this and this?"
you remember it just plain as day. tavis: so you recall a lot of the great moments on stage. >> i do, i do, i do. >> -- tavis: obviously, when you make it into the rock-and- roll hall of fame, it is a major statement on the part of those folks about your musical contributions. but let me ask you gregg allman what your sense is. what is your sense of what the contributioners' is? >> well, i think we came on a whole different genres of music. there was the stuff that we would just always planned. we usually played black music,
and i guess it just molded into a thing like that, you know? tavis: that is amazing. >> i think they made an amazing contribution. tavis: what i think is interesting is that you say, unapologetically, that you play "black music." even to use the black music, to use your term, you have a black drummer, and during the presence of that black drummer, in the south, you guys caught hell for having a black drummer, even though you were playing black music. >> that does not make a lot of sense. tavis: so they love the music, but they do not want you to have a black guy playing in the band. >> that is it. i hate to name places, but, "we
will serve you, but we are not going to serve that it be, the big n-word, i would be so embarrassed because she would open the call him that, and i was standing right there. and he would always say, "do not worry about it, man." tavis: you are still playing? you still have gig's after all of these years? >> i love it. tavis: you talk about it at the start of the book, and i started going through the names that you did before he settled on that. you guys were literally called the allman joys? --hope that was not gereg's greg's idea.
>> i hated that name. >> as well you should. we went round and round and round. tavis: duane made a lot of important contributions, and that was not one of them. tavis: i love the quote on the back of the book. there are so many things i can talk about, and you cannot do justice to your musical legacy in 30 minutes, and that is why you are in the hall of fame, but there is a wonderful quote on the back of the book, and when they chose this to be on the cover, they knew what they were doing. the music was so important to us that there was no time for chatter. we wanted to play, and we just played and played all day. the only thing we wanted to do
was get our sound tighter and tighter, get it better and better. we played for each other. we played to each other. we played off each other, which is what all my brothers is all about. we were like lewis and clark, man. we were musical adventures, explores. we were one for all and all for one. it is all about the music. >> that is right. tavis: the new book from gregg allman is called "my cross to bear." greg, thank you for the rich musical legacy, and thank you for coming on. >> thank you. >> you can find our app in the itunes app store. thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. ♪ >> ♪ by the point of caring ♪
♪ silvere got one more dollar but i'm not going to let them catch me no the midnight hour not going to let them catch me, no, not going to let them catch the midnight rider, not going to let them catch the midnight rider ♪ >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with -- two-time oscar winner kevin costner on his new history channel miniseries. that is next time.
we will see you then. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs.